7 Health Myths That Need to Die

Health advice has been passed through word of mouth for generations. Sometimes it’s helpful. Other times it’s a rumor that turns into a very believable (and potentially harmful) myth. Here are seven common health myths that need to die.

1. Wet hair will make you sick

No, going outside or sleeping with wet hair won’t automatically make you sick — regardless of how chilled you feel. You still have to come in contact with disease-causing pathogens to get sick. And if you do, there’s no evidence that the wetness of your hair will make you more vulnerable to becoming infected.

What wet hair can lead to are fungal infections and hair breakage, according to Healthline. Hair is at its weakest when it’s wet — making it more susceptible to breakage, especially if you put it in a tight ponytail or tangle it while sleeping. And the warm, damp environment can promote fungal growth. “Along with the fungus naturally present on your scalp, pillows are also a hotbed for fungus,” Healthline says. “It thrives in a warm environment and a wet pillowcase and pillow provide the ideal breeding ground.” So that’s why it’s ideal to dry your hair when possible — not because you’ll catch a cold.

2. You need 8 glasses of water per day

pouring water into a glassCredit: pinkomelet/Getty Images

It has become common advice to drink eight glasses of water per day. And while drinking enough water is incredibly important, you might not actually need that much to stay hydrated (or you might need more). “An individual’s daily water needs vary substantially, based on body size, physical activity level, the local climate, and other factors,” according to Harvard Medical School.

The general guideline is to take in 3.7 liters (or about 16 cups) of water from your daily food and beverages. And according to Harvard Medical School, most people’s diets meet about 70 percent of that guideline. So what about the rest? “Just wait for the body to send you a message that you need to reach for a glass of water,” Harvard Medical School says. “It’s called ‘thirst.’” You might need extra hydration on some days more than others. Listen to your body, and don’t worry so much about counting cups of water.

3. Skipping breakfast will lead to weight gain

The notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day might not be so accurate after all. It’s true that some research shows breakfast eaters are generally healthier, though that might be due to other lifestyle factors besides breakfast, according to Healthline. And despite common belief to the contrary, one study found eating breakfast did not jump-start the metabolism to promote more calorie burning throughout the day.

Still more research found skipping breakfast did not lead to weight gain. “Higher-quality studies show that it makes no difference whether people eat or skip breakfast,” Healthline says. “Skipping breakfast makes you eat more at lunch, but not enough to compensate for the breakfast you skipped.” So if you feel hungry in the morning, go ahead and eat. And if you don’t, it’s OK to wait. Just make sure you’re consuming enough healthy foods throughout the day to get the nutrition your body needs.

4. Sitting is the new smoking

Yes, a sedentary lifestyle can harm your health. According to Mayo Clinic, sitting has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. But the popular mantra that “sitting is the new smoking” — as in a sedentary lifestyle is just as unhealthy as being a smoker — simply isn’t true.

In a recent analysis, an international team of researchers acknowledged the risks of sitting too much but explained how they just can’t compare to smoking. For instance, excessive sitting (of more than eight hours per day) can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases and premature death by about 10 percent to 20 percent, according to a news release on the analysis. But smoking can increase a person’s risk of premature death from any cause by about 180 percent. Plus, the researchers pointed out that sitting is neither an addiction nor a danger to others — unlike smoking. So while both are health hazards, smoking and sitting can’t really be compared on the same level.

5. Natural supplements are a safer choice

natural herbs and supplementsCredit: Elenathewise/Getty Images

Many people seek more natural treatments to fix their ailments, assuming those remedies are safer for their bodies. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Since the standards for supplements are not as strict, the amount of each ingredient may vary between products,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “Potential side effects may not be mentioned on the label.”

Moreover, even though they’re natural, these treatments still can interfere with other medications and supplements you might be taking. “Some medications, vitamins or supplements can hinder the way your body absorbs, breaks down and eliminates medicine,” Cleveland Clinic says. Of course, looking into natural remedies is fine as long as you’re smart about it. But it’s critical to let your doctor know about everything you take down to the last vitamin and herb. It’s also worth discussing remedies with your pharmacist, who should be well-versed in how they all interact.

6. Cracking joints causes arthritis

As you loudly cracked all your knuckles, someone once might have told you it would lead to arthritis. Maybe it was a well-intentioned person worried about joint care who started this rumor. Or maybe it was someone who really hated the sound of cracking knuckles. Either way, you’re not going to pop yourself to arthritis. In fact, one study found people who habitually cracked their knuckles had the same risk for osteoarthritis as non-knuckle crackers.

The sound when knuckles crack comes from naturally occurring gas bubbles. “The ‘pop’ of a cracked knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid — the fluid that helps lubricate joints,” according to Harvard Medical School. “The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, either by stretching the fingers or bending them backward, creating negative pressure.” As long as you don’t have any pain, swelling or other abnormal symptoms coming from the joint, crack on.

7. Healthy people don’t need vaccines

health care professional administering a vaccineCredit: Nastco/Getty Images

Many harmful myths surround vaccinations. For instance, despite it being a popular argument with anti-vaxxers, no research has found a causal relationship between vaccines and autism. But perhaps one of the most dangerous myths is believing you don’t need to get vaccinated if you’re a healthy person — and assuming that your decision only affects you.

Vaccines are all about “herd immunity.” “If most people are immune to a disease, then those who can’t be vaccinated or are at especially high risk for a disease will still get some protection — because the people around them won’t get sick,” Cleveland Clinic says. A prime example is the flu shot. If a generally healthy person opts out of getting the vaccine and then gets the flu, their body probably can handle it without much difficulty. But they could infect someone for whom the flu would be a death sentence. So discuss which vaccines are appropriate for you with your doctor to take care of yourself and those around you.

Main image credit: Saklakova/Getty Images

117 comments

Leo C
Leo C4 hours ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Lisa M
Lisa Myesterday

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa Myesterday

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill3 days ago

thanks

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Chad A
Chad A3 days ago

Get your vaccines!

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Joan E R
Joan E R4 days ago

Thanks.

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Carol S
Carol S5 days ago

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Carol S
Carol S5 days ago

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Carol S
Carol S5 days ago

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola5 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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